By SAMUEL HAWKINS
Chapter 11: World Without A Superboy
As the space that had moments before contained Superboy stood empty, a collective vertigo gripped the Legion. He was gone.
Blasted into nothingness.
Like he had never existed.
This, every Legionnaire knew to the core of their being, was very, very bad.
With a hard gasp still stuck in their throats, the few eyes that could tear themselves from the void left by their teammate looked back to Mordru. They expected to find a still deadly threat.
They found something else entirely. The Dark Lord was having problems all his own.
"Brainy," Cosmic Boy said hesitantly, "whatís going on?"
The "descendant" of Supermanís second-greatest enemy peered intently at the sight before him. "He doesnít seem to be Ö all there."
"I can see that," Cosmic Boy said with some irritation. And he could. Some parts of the wildly thrashing Mordru were more visible, more tangible, than were others. His arms were fully present, as were one leg and sections of his torso. The rest of him, however, seemed to be Ö washed out. "What could cause this?" Cosmic Boy asked.
"Iím Ö Iím not sure," the boy with the computer mind was forced to admit. There was a detectable frustration in his voice. "This may be what the Nullifier does. I donít know. I just Ö I just donít know when it comes to magic."
"Who does?" Cosmic Boy remarked. "Well, whatever is going on, he at least seems to be stuck."
"Not Ö not for long," a still groggy Saturn Girl interjected. "Picking up Ö mental Ö activity from him. Heís about to Ė"
She didnít get to finish, as a sudden rupture in the space around Mordru created a shockwave that flattened them all. When they were able to look up, they saw a fully manifested Mordru, humbled but whole, a shroud of swirling crimson energy surrounding him. Ponderously, the energy dissipated, leaving only a smoldering reminder of the price paid for Mordruís freedom.
"You Ė you Ė fools!" Mordru, almost speechless with fury, growled. "What you have cost me!" At the sight and sounds of the enraged Mordru, the Legionnaires could not help but tremble. His hatred for them was apparent, and it formed a growing, twisting cancer that was overtaking his being. "That Ö truly Ö hurt!"
From his knees, he looked at them, and his intent was clear to each Legionnaire. Before, there had been some slight sense of reluctance. Some Ö hesitation regarding them. It was gone. Whatever potential or lack thereof heíd seen in them made no difference now. They had hurt him as no one had in centuries. This had become an intimate affair.
He would not just kill them. First, they would discover far worse things than death. A sneer born of pain and self-righteous spite crossed the wizardís face. This had gone too far. Time to finish it. Permanently, and painfully.
But as he began the journey to his feet, the eyes of the most powerful being in the galaxy met those of a fifteen year-old former magnoball champion.
And something happened.
Something that had not happened in centuries. Something that no one would have believed could ever happen again.
And without the briefest hesitation, without the slightest instability, Cosmic Boy said, "He killed Superboy. Legionnaires Ö get Mordru."
For the Dark Lord, the next few moments were pivotal. He watched the battered and grief-stricken Legionnaires respond to their leaderís instruction, and begin to stalk him with a cautious determination. He watched as the looks of fear and grief on their faces grew into something else. He watched, and as their persistent determination took an almost tangible form, he felt a chill crawl up his ancient spine. He watched all this, and learned something.
It was too late.
Fickle, unaccommodating Fate had chosen the course he most feared. These foes would not be turned to his service. Neither would there be an easy, crushing victory. To be certain, he might still destroy them someday, but the window of opportunity in which he might have completely overwhelmed this foretold threat had closed.
With nothing else to oppose him, the universe had played its final card. Into the breach had been thrown a group of teens hastily assembled from across space and time.
And against all odds, they had persevered. Long enough to find their individual and collective strengths. Long enough to bind together the foundations of a legend. Long enough to truly birth the one thing that could stand between Mordru the Merciless and a millennium of universal domination.
The Legion of Super-Heroes.
"Damn you all," whispered Mordru.
Through the fog of anger and pain, certain realizations began to coalesce for the Dark Lord. The weariness of this encounter, he now understood, was too heavy upon him to continue. His energies were at dangerously low levels, and he hurt in places that had not hurt in close to a thousand years. Best to withdraw, rebuild his personal power, resume his armiesí offensives, and grow his empire. Then, he would satisfy his thirst for vengeance.
And truly, he thought, these children, fools though they be, do look angry enough to perhaps do some permanent harm.
It was time to go.
Mordru sighed. It was not the first time he had ever retreated, but the last occasion was so long ago that heíd almost forgotten how. With a burst of white smoke that didnít quite achieve its desired effect in the sparse gravity of the asteroid, he and his ship vanished.
Much to their surprise, the Merciless One took his leave of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Though not without a parting shot. From the void of his presence, his angry voice sounded a promise.
"We will renew this another day, little ones. Before, you were but a nuisance, an annoyance to perhaps be dealt with in some indefinite future. Now, you are enemies. Ones who will pay in kind for the blood you have drawn this day."
Then he was gone, leaving the Legionnaires with nothing but the silence of space. Cosmic Boy looked around, and saw the empty spot in his team that was a gaping wound. One that could never be healed.
"We already have," he whispered in answer to Mordruís final words. "We already have."
|TOMORROW'S LESSON Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved. This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics. Superboy, Clark Kent, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Triplicate Girl, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid, Mordru the Merciless, Smallville, Metropolis, & Krypton are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.|